ISIS seizes border crossing in western Anbar

Iraqi and Syrian towns and cities seized by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham. Map created by The Long War Journal. Click to view larger map.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (or Levant) is reported to have retaken control of the town of Al Qaim as well as the border crossing to Syria. From Reuters:

Sunni fighters have seized a border post on the Iraq-Syria frontier, security sources said, smashing a line drawn by colonial powers a century ago in a campaign to create an Islamic Caliphate from the Mediterranean Sea to Iran.

The militants, led by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), first moved into the nearby town of Al Qaim on Friday, pushing out security forces, the sources said on Saturday.

Once border guards heard that Al Qaim had fallen, they left their posts and militants moved in, the sources said.

Sameer al-Shwiali, media adviser to the commander of Iraq’s anti-terrorist squad, told Reuters the Iraqi army was still in control of Al Qaim.

The Reuters account of ISIS control of Al Qaim is corroborated by other news outlets such as The Associated Press. ISIS is said to have taken control of Al Qaim last week, but Iraqi forces claimed they retook the town after sending in reinforcements, including more border guards.

The fighting in Al Qaim highlights the difficulties Iraqi security forces are having with retaking areas of Iraq that are far from Baghdad. Keep in mind that the Iraqi military has been unable to wrest control of Fallujah, a city in Anbar that is just 30 miles from Baghdad. The ISIS and allied tribal groups have been in control of Fallujah since early January.

ISIS is keen to keep the border between Iraq and Syria open to allow it to move weapons, ammunition, fighters, supplies, and cash back and forth to support operations in both countries. The ISIS’ latest edition of “Islamic State News” is titled “Smashing the Borders of the Tawaghit [leaders who do no rule by sharia]” and highlights the group’s efforts to destroy berms and capture border outposts between Iraq and Syria. The magazine included photographs of a captured border police outpost as well as openings bulldozed through berms on the border.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Fred says:

    Where does the Lashkar az Zil play in with the ISIS? Back in 2009, you mentioned that the Shadow Army was recruiting former Iraqi Republican Guards, SRG, etc?
    More recently, some of the ISIS fighters appear to have adopted a uniform similar to that of the Lashkar az Zil while some of the training seen in videos appears similar.
    Is the ISIS running its own version of the Lashkar az Zil program? And have any of the Lashkar az Zil’s units broken off to joint ISIS?

  • minnor says:

    They should consider underground bunkers at road checkpoints. That will reduce casualties in case of car or truck bombs. Also better is to ban sale of 4×4 cars in whole of iraq, that will severely hamper movement of terrorist vehicles in deserts bypassing roads and checkpoints.

  • RJ says:

    The name of the game for Obama is to keep American’s eyes off the nuclear march of Iran. What happens to Iraq means nothing as long as Iran gets its nukes!
    Once that happens the game switches to Iran demanding the lands now being contested come under her umbrella of “protection” which means control
    Obama will make speeches all day long on how he can work this out…another misdirection so that his games in collapsing the American economic model continue. He has done a very good job so far, has he not?
    The average American citizen will still believe in his hope and change tripe…their heads stay in the sand, inflation will continue, jobs will stagnate and Obama will be pleased, very pleased indeed!


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